Thursday, July 14, 2011


Ask a Clean Person: Hard-Cleaning a Kitchen, a Very Special Episode

Holy fluttering wings, Batman! Apparently this is the month when the locusts descended upon the Hairpinners; in the space of a week multiple questions came in about fruit fly invasions, pantry moth infestations, and cockroach incursions.

You poor things. Don’t worry: Mama’s here, she’s got DEET, and she’s not afraid to use it.

When I was considering the various “HELP ME I’VE GOT BUGS!!” queries that came in, I realized that the answer to all of them rightly needed to begin with “Guuurl. You need to hard clean your kitchen before you do anything else.” And then I thought, “Hm. I bet that’s a new concept for some, so how about I tackle the bugs as a two-parter, starting with ‘How To Hard Clean Your Kitchen’”

And here we are! This is gonna be so much fun, you guys.

Step 1: Set aside 1-3 hours (yup) of your day, depending on the size and relative filth level of your kitchen, the nature of the invading beast, and if you have helping hands. (Fair warning: Sometimes helping hands get in the way.)

Step 2: Put on music. This is non-negotiable, really. Probably go with a playlist similar to what you would listen to at the gym, because basically you want to turn this into CLEAN DANCE PARTY USA WOOO SHOTSSS!!!

Step 3: Choose your weapons! The cleaning products you choose depends on a few factors: personal preference, the make-up of your kitchen (granite countertops and butcher blocks take different products, same goes for tile walls and painted walls), and any specific trouble spots you have.

My weapons are simple (and green-cleaners may want to head to the room next door at this point): Soft Scrub and an all-purpose cleaner, but my kitchen is made up entirely of purple formica, gray tile, and particle board, ho hum. My kingdom for subway tile and beadboard! I also like to bust out ammonia on the regular to wipe down cabinetry, walls, the ventilation hood, my floors, young children with sticky fingers, etc. But that’s just me! You all are grown adults with values and opinions and mothers who may have imparted upon you a devotion to certain products and so by all means you do you.

Once you’ve selected your products, you’ll need to assemble your accessories: a sponge, sure. Perhaps more than one? A few clean rags, a great idea to have around. A roll of paper towels, yes. BUT! Your hard clean should NOT be done with paper towels. First of all — oh and hey, can someone grab the group next door? Thanks! — it’s wasteful and bad for our dear Mother Earth. But more importantly, paper towels will not cut it for the kind of cleaning we’re talking about here. So yes, have them to do a final wipe-up, but don’t count on them to do the majority of your work.

If you’re using a product like bleach or ammonia that needs to be diluted into a solution, you’ll also need a small bucket. You know what works really well for this and is kind of charming? Those plastic beach pails we all had as kids! I know, right? And they sell them at every dollar store, so go wild!

Last but certainly not least, you’ll likely want a pair of rubber gloves around in the event you’re making a chemical solution. Your hands, Miss Scarlett!

Step 4: Clear everything out! Yes everything. I know. I knowww. This includes washing, drying, and putting away any dirty dishes in the sink. (If you keep making that face it will freeze like that.) I really promise that something that will take so much less time than you think will save you so much energy and annoyance and extra work in the next stages, so just do it.

But actually here, you have a decision: Does your situation call for just a surface clean, or do you require full-on pantry purge? Probably for most of you the surface clean will suffice. (Sorry pantry moth girl, you’re in for the full monty.)

Step 5: Take a break! So here’s the secret: The hardest part is over. We’ll coast from here! (More or less.) Would you care for a cold beer? I bet you would. Remember to buy some before you start this project. Shopping list: Soft Scrub, sponges, beer, paper towels.

Step 6: CLEAN! Start from the top and move to the bottom, so: Wipe cabinetry, then walls, then countertops, then the fridge and stove, ending with the floors. Leave the sink be until the very, very end of the process as you’ll be using it to dump dirty washing water, ring out sponges and rags, and probably some other gross things that we don’t really need to talk about.

If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could take a peek at the top of your cabinets. They might be wearing a dirt sweater! And in this heat too!

Step 7: Put everything back! But before you do, get out your garbage pail and be merciless in the face of clutter. Especially if you’ve done a pantry purge. Check expiration dates, toss out things you don’t use (and/or donate any unopened dry or canned goods), move things into storage containers if they’re open and potentially attracting critters, etc. Here’s a nifty piece from Real Simple on how to do a speed pantry clean that you might enjoy! Even if you went in for just the surface clean, you probably have a lot of junk in your kitchen that you don’t need. Old twist ties, unopened mail, trinkets from two relationships ago that you’re holding on to because you have an utter inability to admit when something is really over, even though you’re the one who ended it and frankly you’ve never regretted a thing except that that shot glass in the shape of a cowboy boot that you bought together on a trip to Austin is really just so special to you.

Put that shot glass in the trash.

Once you’ve thrown away anything you don’t need, take a gander at what’s going back in your squeaky clean kitchen. Are things sticky or dusty or greasy or some combination of all three? Wipe them down. A damp rag should suffice, you probably don’t even need a product, but if you do that’s where all-purpose cleaner comes in handy.

Step 8: Clean up after yourself! “But Jolie, I’ve just cleaned for hours!” I know, but you created some filth in that process, so: Dump any dirty washing water and rinse out your bucket, rinse and wring out your sponges and rags. Put your cleaning products away. Toss paper towels in the trash, and tie up the bag and take it out if it’s full.

Last but not least — and hey, you’re almost done!! — clean the sink. Ohhh look how it’s shiny! Actually, take a step back and look at your whole kitchen. Isn’t it amazing? It’s OK if you want to lick the cabinetry, we can give you a minute alone.

BONUS: You just got a pretty righteous workout, lady! So hey, skip the gym today and maybe treat yourself to a manicure if that’s your kind of thing. (I can’t sit still that long.) Or whatever, really, but reward yourself in some small way. That was a ton of grungy, nasty work you just did!

Next week we’ll go back to the Q&A format to tackle elimination methods specific to the bug problems you’re having. As always, if you all have suggestions on products or tricks or spells that you’ve found effective make them in the comments or email cleaning @ thehairpin dot com.

Previously: Gunky Le Creuset, Grungy Silpat, and Grody Disposals.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you looking for a green alternative to the suggestions found here? Because we’ve got some! More importantly: Is anything you own dirty?

158 Comments / Post A Comment


Shouldn't step 3 be: Get white wine with ice cubes and drink liberally until kitchen is clean?


@parallel-lines Ugh, I didn't even finish reading! I just came down here to say "Put ice cubes in your beer."


@parallel-lines, White wine with ice cubes is probably one of my favorite things in the world.


@boyofdestiny *gasp!!* sacrilege!! Down here in Australia, that kind of behaviour WILL get you thrown out of the family home!! :P


I really do love a good hard kitchen cleaning day. Especially with the right playlist.


I really do love a good hard kitchen cleaning day. Especially with the right playlist.

RK Fire

I would just like to use this space to say that thanks to these columns, I have been using vinegar in all of my cleaning activities, and everything seems in my apt seems to be cleaner and smells better. Thanks, Clean Person! :D


@RK Fire Ditto that! I used vinegar to clean my gross pigeon-ridden balcony and I haven't seen one since!

Jillsy Sloper

@Jolie Kerr I'd been having trouble getting sour half-and-half smell out of my travel thermos, but vinegar totally worked! Thank you!

RK Fire

@Jolie Kerr: And you deserve it!

RK Fire

@jacqueline, Jillsy Sloper: Vinegar is truly the best thing ever.


This is the best column in the history of columns.

What is the best AP cleaner? Did we already do that one? What about the ideal vinegar ratio for cleaning solutions? I am really looking forward to the hardwood floors hard clean, too.

God, I need to read the archives.

Christina Williamson

@Jolie Kerr not only is it the best cleaning solution ever, IT TASTES SO GOOD ON FRIES!!!!!!!!! mmmmm... now tell me what is better than a miracle cleaning solution that is also so so edible?

Gin and Jewess

@karion for AP cleaners, my favorite (not green) is Fantastik. It IS fantastic and the smell is strangely addictive. For green AP cleaners I like Citra-Solv. Also, you can do a lot more than just wood with Murphy's Oil Soap! (I like the squirt-n-mop kind, for everything.) Both of those also smell amazing. Oh, and for the record I work as a cleaning lady, I've tried 'em all.

Ella Earp-Lynch@facebook

@RK Fire for hardwood floors, cold tea works great. Also Murphy's oil soap.


Step 1: Move

Jolie Kerr

@boyofdestiny Step 1: Kill it with fire.


@boyofdestiny Step 1: Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.

The Lady of Shalott

I was going to be all "Yessss!!! I LOVE the Clean Person!!!" but then I read it and realized that I clean my kitchen like this every week. But I enjoy cleaning as a recreational activity, like on Friday nights. I may have a weird social life, but hey! You can eat off the tops of my cabinets!

And plus, once you go after the sink with some Comet or Bon Ami, and then you see how shiny the drain gets? It's an addiction.


@The Lady of Shalott Me too! I use dish soap and baking soda on my (stainless) sink. Talk about shiny! It also works really well on tile.


@The Lady of Shalott Yes! I love my sink after I've cleaned it.


@The Lady of Shalott Comet is simply the greatest thing ever.

Jolie Kerr

@HunnyBee I love Comet so much I want to marry it.


@The Lady of Shalott shiny sinks are the best and i wish you were my roommate

Aunt Pete

@The Lady of Shalott Comet AND Steel Wool. The sink shall shine so bright that it will blind you when you're done.

fondue with cheddar

@Jolie Kerr Not as much as the Strange Addictions lady.

Christina Williamson

@HunnyBee have you seen the My Strange Addiction episode with the woman that eats it? Don't do that hehehe


@Christina Williamson Oh heavens no! You can survive that!? I assumed it was just some sort of powdered bleach/acid.


@HunnyBee All her teeth were destroyed. She needed like, 30k worth of work done on her mouth.

Christina Williamson

@The Lady of Shalott It is actually completely tragic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvEFXPJ25p8&playnext=1&list=PLFC4EAEBB140A7143

Ella Quint

@Christina Williamson - Not really directed at yerself just a good segue...

All the 'nuffers who think hard cleaning yer kitchen is silly/boring/real work - the most fabulous motivator I have found by far?

No, not beer - but close! Check out a few episodes of HOARDERS. I guarantee you will be joyfully filling green hefty bags of crap whilst you scrub the shit (literally) of your kitchen!


I use the sink as a bucket for mopping the floor. After it's clean, natch. I think I'm so fancy because I thought of that, but I'm sure everyone uses the sink as a bucket.


@kayjay When I'm cleaning the bathroom, I use the toilet bowl.

elysian fields

My method involves one step only: drink wine until you no longer notice or care how dirty your kitchen is. Voila! You just saved several hours of drudgery, giving you time to do things of greater importance, such as drinking more wine.


You forgot the part where you get real stoned.


@Manatee Word! I made it three steps of washing the dishes last night.


@Manatee Totally! Nothing better than a good buzz and getting totally into cleaning all the grout in your kitchen until its completely white again, then sitting back with a beer and realizing that you were scrubbing the same 4' x 4' area for like an hour.

While I love stoned-cleaning my kitchen, stoned-cleaning the bathroom is my absolute favourite!


@Manatee Add in a cup of coffee or tea and it's extra special! I think it was in The Botany of Desire where I learned that getting stoned and getting caffeinated work symbiotically to make an even better buzz. And yes, that 4x4 inch square is lickable when you're finished!

Hot mayonnaise

@sox: I've heard that called the "bohemian buzz." There was a couple of years when my Sunday mornings consisted of a large strong cup of coffee, the Sunday Times, and some puffing. Great way to start the day. The caffiene counteracts the weed slothy-ness.


@Manatee The added bonus to this is if you get REALLY into it and clean for like 4 hours and then pass out for the night, you don't remember why or how you did this and are just AMAZED at how clean your apartment is the next day/week. Never cleaning sober again.


@Manatee Seriously the only reason I smoke anymore - to clean or poop. (I've really disappointed my teenaged-me)


@ReginaSavage I personally love stoned-cleaning out my closet! Look at the socks, they're organized by color now! The fuzzy ones are on the right. Soooo fuzzy.


@Hot mayonnaise We prefer to call it a Hippie Speedball (or, more accurately, "The Marriage Preserver"). It gets a lot of stuff done at the homestead.


The apartment that I moved into last month is in need of a real clean, specifically the kitchen.
The people who lived there before me didn't clean, the person I live with now (who was there before) doesn't seem to care, so I'm taking out all the dishes, decorating our living room couches and chairs with them, and scrubbing the cabinets.
I'm so unexcited about the task, but I'm leaving the Under The Sink area to the roommate. She's been saying she'll get to it since mid-June, it'll happen eventually, I'm sure. Right?


@Kai@twitter Nope, no it won't. Still waiting.


@adriana It finally happened! Well, she moved the empties (courtesy of her and previous roommates) to the front entrance.
I see myself clearing off every surface and giving it a real scrub down. Much like the one described above.

one cow.

Ok...so...what do you mean by "wipe everything down?" I've never understood this! Are you just dampening a sponge with water and wiping stuff? Are you spraying something across a whole surface and then wiping it off with a damp sponge? How do you get the product OFF your stuff you just spread it all over? Are you somehow supposed to rinse it with water, or is it supposed to just stay there on the surface forever? And how do you rinse a flat surface without getting water all over the kitchen floor? This confusion also applies to mopping! I'M SO CONFUSED STILL AND I'M SUPPOSED TO BE A GROWN UP!!!


@one cow. Wipe everything down with a sponge dipped in your cleaning solution of choice. Then once everything is good and clean rinse your sponge thoroughly (or use a different one all together) and wiped everything again.


@one cow. This is a thing that I also wonder...

Ooooo! Also! Could you like, dilute some vinegar and wipe the walls down with it as your last step? Would that vinegary smell go away and then just leave your house smelling fresh and new like a fresh, new daisy? Am I learning my Clean Person lessons correctly?

Jolie Kerr

@one cow. It's okay! Let's use the products mentioned in the post as examples:

Step 1: Wet sponge
Step 2: Apply a nickle-to-quarter sized blurt of Soft Scrub to sponge, smoosh it into sponge while simultaneously wringing excess water out (but not all the excess water)
Step 3: Wipe down surfaces, rewetting and reapplying SS to the sponge as needed
Step 4: Rinse sponge under running water by wringing it a few times
Step 5: Wipe surfaces clean of SS with damp, clean sponge
Step 6: Go over surfaces with an AP cleaner and paper towels if any residue is left.

If you're only using an AP cleaner (which is totally fine and might be a good beginners tactic for you!), you just spray it directly onto your counters and wipe it off with either a clean, damp sponge or paper towels/clean rags.

Mops are assholes and one of these days I'll tell you how to use them and also why you shouldn't bother.

one cow.

@Jolie Kerr Sigh! Thaaaaaank yoooooou. That makes perfect sense & I have all the confidence that I can do it! I look forward to hearing about asshole mops because floor cleaning is quite puzzling to me.


@one cow. @Jolie Kerr Oh the floor cleaning! Mops ARE assholes & my cheapo Swiffer ripoff is useless. So last night I gave up and hands-and-knees scrubbed the grossest part of the kitchen floor w/watered-down vinegar. Those 10 tiles look so pretty now, but I can't do that forever.


@Jolie Kerr Regarding mops, the best cleaning advice I've ever gotten was from a David Sedaris book: either you want a clean floor or you want to use a mop; you can't have both.


@Jolie Kerr Oh shit, because my two comments were going to be a) What do you do to the floor, you didn't mention the FLOOR? and b) I just bought a new mop, aren't you proud? But I guess...no, you're not proud. Shit.


This is preemptive, but I have to say it: IF ANY OF YOU HAVE A ROACH PROBLEM, PLEASE TALK TO ME! I CAN HELP YOU!!!

I had a terrible infestation for months, but am currently living in that same roach-filled apartment bug-free!

As it was probably the worst living experience I have ever had, I'm more than eager to share my tips with anyone who needs them.


@SBGBlogs My building has roach problems, but I've got a few tricks up my sleeves and have successfully kept my place roach-free for over 6 months.

...Except my solution probably involves more crickets.

Jolie Kerr

@SBGBlogs Hi! Can you email me (cleaning at thehairpin dot com) - thanks!!


@SBGBlogs Please do share! I don't have a roach problem (or I didn't until I typed that, thereby arousing all of the universe's imma-fuck-witchu instincts), but if I ever get one I have no idea what I'd do beyond move out and start living on the sidewalk.

Johanna Elemenopee

@SBGBlogs spill it


@SBGBlogs boric acid/onion balls?


@SBGBlogs tell me tell meeeeee!!! Our whole kitchen is covered with little coke-like lines of boric acid and I'm paranoid that it's getting on our dishes and in our food! The boric acid is driving me crazier than the roaches, who still haven't totally vacated btw.


@sakade Get ready because this finna be LONG!

None of you will actually be happy about my advice because with roaches, quick fixes and do-it-yourself will get you essentially nowhere. My studio was my dream apartment. Separate kitchen and dining room! Natural sunlight! I can't paint the walls whatever color I want! It's right by an amazing bar, coffee shop, and thai restaurant!

And it had roaches.

Like. A lot of them.

Exterminators will tell you it's a bad sign if, in broad daylight, your disgusting little friends are out in the open. This means that there are so many, they're being pushed out of the walls into your space. I saw several every day. Always one in the sink in the afternoon. On my walls. HORRIBLE.

But I was a pro. I talked to my landlord. He set traps. He even bug bombed the place for me. He was speedy about it. I kept a can of Raid handy and got used to killing the ones I saw.


The problem actually got worse to the point that my new strategy was to stay at my boyfriend's place in hiding and to follow my I-am-a-grown-up-capable-of-killing-bugs face with sobbing hysterically. I almost moved out.

The solution?

Sorry, boo, you HAVE to call a pro. Traps and gas DO. NOT. WORK.

Boric acid does, but what you REALLY want is a gel bait. The pro will place tiny dots of the stuff in all the places those assholes like to hide. Near your sinks, tubs, and food. It's NOT messy, it's easily hidden, and trust me, IT WORKS.

You also need to bust out the caulking gun and caulk every last nook and cranny that has a gap around your pipes and counters.

The bright side is that if you have a great landlord like me, when you come to them with a bill from the exterminator you just hired on your own because you can't take it anymore and say you think he needs to pay for it or work something out with you, he says "Sure" and deducts the cost from your rent.

If your landlord is a huge DICK, then you need to look up your local housing/tenant agency and see what their protocol is. You'll need to follow those guidelines directly in order to demand action or, if need be, break your lease. A lot of waiting and written documentation is needed for this route.

If you own your place, this is an investment.

I haven't seen a bug in weeks. I'm comfortable again and I no longer want to move.

BUT roaches are HARDY. They're survivors. You will not kill them with one go 'round.

I ended up getting a quarterly service from ANDERSON PEST SOLUTIONS (they're amazing). They're pricey, but they come out in between treatments if you need them to for FREE and with my landlord paying for half, it's a great deal.

With roaches, it's basically guaranteed that you'll see them again and even if you only need the exterminators out 3 times, it's less than you'd pay for 3 separate one-time jobs by a LOT.

Home remedies might work if you don't have it bad, but I definitely did and this was the only way. It's especially important if you live in an apartment because while YOU might be clean and tidy and careful, your neighbor might not be so as soon as the bugs think the coast is clear, they'll be back in your space lickety split.

Sorry this is so long, but the few months that I lived with the roaches at their worst were some of the most awful months of my life. Now that I'm just about completely bug free (I can walk around barefoot again! And have people over!), I HAD to share!


@Kate Croy Believe me, the months I had to deal with this crap almost killed me. I FEEL YOU.


@SBGBlogs LAST THING: I had German roaches which are smaller and brown. Know what kind of roach you have before you try anything!


@SBGBlogs I'm so sorry for your terrible roach problem. You are brave for sticking it out there. But I find it really hard to understand how you could move in there and not hear a peep from your landlord about roaches or even see any yourself. I mean, you could have even looked up a review online possibly. Also, girl, you got cheated hardcore. That landlord got your ass on a lease for a roach ridden apartment. He was well aware of the situation. And then he even got you to pay to exterminate it. Girls, don't follow this example. If you have a roach problem like that in an apartment, it is your LANDLORD'S responsibility. If not, you have the right to break the lease. Do the legwork paperwork but don't be a sucker.


@SBGBlogs - What you said!

I had the same problem, compounded by neighbors who refused to take care of their out of control roach issues. I sealed every single gap between floor boards with caulk, but for holes around pipes, large holes in walls, etc., I used this stuff -
It's a cheap silicone sealant that expands when applied (similar to mousse when it comes out of the can). It looks like it takes over, but when dried, it can be cut, sanded, painted, etc. It saved my ass - big time.

My pest control guy is *outstanding* and I am not quick with the compliments. But you're absolutely right - call a professional - it's not worth f***ing around. Spend the money and sleep much better.


@nomorecheese Ah, but see you're assuming 2 things: 1. That my landlord wasn't doing anything (he was; I chose to take matters into my own hands); 2. That roaches are visible and easily spotted; they're often not unless the infestation is extreme; 3. That the work done is easy or simple to break the lease. Illinois's rules about this kind of thing are strict. Because my landlord wasn't standing idly by, my situation didn't fit their requirements for lease-breaking. A LOT of documentation is needed for that and it can take months to get. The other thing is that I made a choice to stay because I knew that with what I can afford to pay in rent, my options were limited on where I could even go. At this point in my life, as long as my landlord is cooperative and helpful (he is) and as long as I make this little money and as long as I'm bug-free, dude, I'm happy. I'm well aware that I could have left (not necessarily legally, but I feel I could have broken my lease if I needed to), it was more that I didn't WANT to.

Like I said though, if you feel your sitch is bad, go to your local tenants website and follow their protocol. Document everything and do what you need to do!


@sakade Boric acid should be near your sink! They go for water every night, since they need it to live. I promise washing and drying your sink every night, then sprinkling it on will help.


Step 2: David Bowie, "Young Americans"


@spiralbetty This has been my soundtrack for all non-sexy grownup activities (paying bills, responding to wedding invites, sending thank you notes, deep scrubbing, paying bills, making a list of dishware and servingware on Amazon that is affordable and mismatched, but still same-style enough so I can break stuff and replace it with similar but not identical and seem 'creative' not 'lazy', paying bills, etc) since I was 16.

Unfortunately, these days I'm feeling less and less like the first half of the title - now it'd become one damn song which will make me break down and cry.


@leon.saintjean Look at you, with your thank you notes and constant bill paying. I like your dish purchasing strategy. I keep an evolving set of little mismatched but similar blue pattern bowls from Chinatown for dessert. Replacements don't have to match, they just have to "go with."

The thing is, I doubt anyone but the olds would describe people as 'young americans'. It seems to me that entire album was always the olds looking on or back. And 'Fascination' remains an epic chores song.


@spiralbetty I'm still a young, at least for a little while! But I'm also one who used to paint a lightning bolt on my face as a teenager, so, ya know.


@leon.saintjean *sigh*


@leon.saintjean whoa, that was deep. And I can relate.

no way

Related to nothing, Clue references will win you friends.

Also, the Real Simple link is broken.

Jolie Kerr

@no way It was a Gone With The Wind reference. The Miss Scarlet in Clue only takes one 't' in her name.

(I am equally obsessed with both.)

no way

@Jolie Kerr Ah, thank you for clarifying. Was pointlessly trying to fit that line in my Clue memory.


For the very first time, I recently had a crazy sudden ant invasion in my kitchen/bathroom (I suspect because last year's bedbug exterminators not only successfully eradicated the BBs, but sadly also my house centipede population). I caulked all the bathroom crevices and bought 2 packages of the plastic bait traps. After a week, they were gone!


Oooh this was wonderful... but I need bug help noooooow! Our compost bin is the coolest thing ever to fruit flies, and my traps just aren't keeping them at bay. They are driving me so crazy!


@acameo fill an old bottle (beer bottle, wine bottle, etc) with a little bit of apple cider vinegar. coil up a piece of paper like a funnel and tape it to the top. the flies enter, smelling the vinegar, but can't get out. leave it out for a few days and clean. repeat as needed.


@ditriana I did this with orange juice and caught approx. 234872374t27364928734 fruit flies.


@acameo same here - inspired by this column I took the bin outside, am initiating a serious kitchen hard clean, and will bring the thoroughly cleaned bin back inside once I'm sure there are no lingering fruit flies remaining in the house to resume residence in their beloved rotting food paradise bin.


Stop composting and throw your trash away, in the garbage, outside, like a human being.


Because seriously, there is only one answer to 'The pile of warm and rotting filth I keep inside of my home where I live is attracting swarms of bugs - what should I do?' And that answer is 'do not keep a pile of warm and rotting filth inside of your home.' Put bleach on it and put it outside.

Edited to add that I see you did take it outside! Hurray! Keep it there forever.


@acameo Can the compost bin go outside? We don't compost but if we just throw the compost-able things away and don't take out the trash that day we get fruit flies. TONS of them. As in you go throw something out and get a face full of fruit flies. It's horrific. So to fix it we got a big-ish tupperware container and put all the things that attract flies into that, then empty that outside once its full. You could do that! And yes, I know it's totally gross to keep a container full of rotting fruit and vegetable matter in your kitchen but it's not as gross as fruit flies. You can also hid it under a table or a cloth or something.


@acameo Composters: put your compost-keeper in the freezer. When it's ready to go to the bin/park/farm/whatever, take it out. Not before. Otherwise it will always smell gross and attract bugs.


@dinos Can you please explain this to my co-workers? We have two compost bins in our lunch room, and I've BEGGED, PLEADED to have them put outside or moved to our industrial-sized fridge. "Then no one will know where they are!" is the argument against it. Meanwhile, our office kitchen smells like a hobo's butthole. I work with stupid people.


@dinos Yep, I keep mine, tightly sealed, in the fridge and empty it super regularly.


@ditriana and beams! allifer and dinos... thanks! I have been trying various fly-trapping methods but they still seem to be getting the best of me. Unfortunately we have a bunch of wild animals around our place so I'm weary to leave it outside. Inspired by increased cleanliness I just put a trap straight in my compost, hoping it helps. Luckily, I get a fresh start every week as my city collects our compost weekly. I clean it with water/a bit of bleach every 2 weeks usually, but as only one out of four people making an effort it only goes so far!


@kayjay Don't they have ceramic compost keepers with charcoal in them so that they don't let the smell out? I think the kitchn does a lot of articles on these.

Do not trust my advice, as I don't compost at all, becauseI live in a very urban place and I have no idea what I'd do when it got full. Dump it in the park?


@sam.i.am I also live in a very urban place and I take my (frozen solid, bug-free) compost to a stand at the farmer's market that collects compost. Some parks might also accept it.


People are still weirded out by compost? People who don't shampoo?


@sam.i.am The charcoal filter ones are ok with the smell, but don't really help with the fruit flies. I'm in the "old giant butter tub with tightly sealed lid" camp. Oh, and Seattle is an urban area too, but you can get fined for putting things that are compostable or recyclable into the garbage-garbage, instead of the yard/kitchen waste or recycling bins, resulting in everyone in the city needing three garbage cans.


oh hoho... You guuysss. Just move to Philadelphia, where they only just started collecting all recyclables every week, like last year.


@DrFeelGood They never picked up my recyclables in San Diego, it was bizzare. I felt so guilty that I'd throw them all into a big plastic tub on the porch, and then when it was full I'd drive it to the college campus and put them in the big recycling dumpsters, everytime thinking "Really San Diego? This is California, not Kentucky.".


@jacqueline Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.


i got an account just to say DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. esp if you have roaches, ants, any kind of crawling bug. i can't believe mother-earth clean, friend of baking soda and vinegar, didn't mention that.


@ditriana Yes! But by all means don't use this without a respirator.


OH I can't wait for the bugs one. Need roach help. We have the teeny ones AND the mid-sized ones. Uggghhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Oohhh also @Jolie - How would you clean a painted wall? I think it's made of drywall if that affects the answer?


@iceberg I'm going to suggest a magic eraser, but I don't know if Jolie endorses this, so I don't know if it's OK.

Jolie Kerr

@iceberg The answer depends on what's on the walls. If it's grease: ammonia solution; if it's just stains: magic eraser that bitch. Email me directly if you want!!

Jolie Kerr

@sam.i.am God I love a magic eraser. I would let Mr. Clean do dirty, filthy things to me. And then I would make him clean me up.


@Jolie Kerr Umm well let's say HYPOTHETICALLY it was some food splatters (pasta sauce) and maybe also some drifty sort of clumps of dust?


Jolie Kerr

@iceberg First of all, you guys really need to stop being embarrassed/apologizing for your spills. I mean, it's not like you're buying used bike shorts or barfing in handbags!

Since you've got dust clumps, I would say the fastest thing for you to do is to go in for the ammonia solution (as long as you're not opposed to chemicals). Mix about 1/4 cup of ammonia to a gallon of water, PUT ON GLOVES, and then wipe the walls down with a rag or sponge dipped in the solution. Any stains can be removed with a magic eraser.


We had a moth problem once. Or rather, a moth nightmare. Moths fluttering around inside bags of rice, near lights, in a bag of bread that had been put into the freezer to protect it from moths. We thought we could fix it by throwing out all things full of moths, but it wasn't true. It seemed to have worked till one day I noticed these little specks all over the walls and cabinets. Do you know what they were?? They were MOTH BABIES. Moth babies everywhere. In a fit of horror I killed them all with a bottle of Windex and paper towels. Mothicide. I won.


@beams! This reminds me of one time when I was living at home, came home to my room and found baby spiders EVERYWHERE. I spent approximately half an hour killing baby spiders and they kept reappearing. I guess it's not the worst thing since baby spiders are pretty small, but I was home alone and it gave me the creepy crawlies.

So I went into my sister's room to sleep there instead and - IT WAS WORSE IN HER ROOM! I felt like I was in spider hell. They were all hanging from the ceiling and there were so, so SO many of them.

Blech. Insects.


@redheadedandcrazy oh. my. god. anything capably of hanging from the ceiling needs to be killed with fire so I hope that your burned the house down. oh god!


@beams! oh my God I read that and now I am scarred for life. Scarred.


@beams! Moths don't come in "babies". They have larvae, like butterflies. Were they larvae or not? If they were just tiny moths, then you weren't dealing with the same thing.

Princess Slayer

Ahhhh Jolie! I was just trying to work up the motivation to crazy clean my kitchen and bedroom and it's like this post is kicking me in the ass to begin. Like a tiny foot pushing me out of my chair.


I just want to tell Jolie that I read this, stood up and without procrastination, cleaned out my fridge. I found things in there that expired before I even moved in. (How is this possible? Did I pack expired food and move it in with me? Was it left here? We may never know.) I am now slightly less filthy because of you. Thank you.


Jolie! Run away from the beadboard! Don't look back! Splashes of "stuff" (runaway soup, airborne bacon grease, sloshes from the fourth drink) will collect in the crevices, which over time will give your kitchen walls the appearance of basically pinstripes made of grime. Specifically, IMPOSSIBLE-TO-CLEAN pinstripes: sponge doesn't get down in there, Magic Eraser falls apart because of all the creasing, scrub brush means sloppy puddles all over the floor.

I have spent four years in my current house trying to figure out how to clean beadboard, and it turns out the answer is primer-sealer and paint. In short, beadboard is made of woe.

fondue with cheddar

@Sapphireblue Yikes! There's a lot of beadboard in the kitchen in my new apartment! Fortunately it's away from the splashy areas (stove and sink). I'm shit out of luck in the bathroom, though. :/


@jen325 My bathroom is also beadboard from the floor halfway up the walls, but it doesn't seem to pick up nearly as much crevice-crud as the kitchen. Although right around the trash can can be problematic in both rooms (maybe that's not a splashy zone for you but apparently I'm a slob overachiever). Good luck!

fondue with cheddar

@Sapphireblue Thanks, good to know. Fortunately, the trash can is against the painted wall. The only things on the beadboard wall are the sink and toilet. The only splatter I foresee is toothpaste, and the beadbord is white so yay!




True story, the one time I found a cockroach in my apartment - a single, small, black motherfucker crawling about unexpectedly in my dresser drawer - I just left. It was more than I could bear. For three days. I left all the lights on, because I heard that scares them. I took nothing with me. My cat was...displeased upon my return.

In the coming revolution, I have no doubt that I will be first up against the wall.


@melis You need to meet my friend who abandoned her bedroom to spiders/roaches.




@cherrispryte I feel like I should qualify the gecko advice by saying get a boy gecko and refrain from ammonia-ing his feet, no matter how sticky his little toes are, because if you do that he'll be mad at you and unable to catch roaches and so he'll just sit there and watch you be horrified by roaches and take his unsatisfying vengeance that way.


@melis I had the same reaction, only less graceful. And mine was a monster cockroach from hell. I screeched at the top of my lungs, flung away the item it was on, turned on all the lights and fled to my sister's for the weekend. I've not seen it since, which I hope means that it is actually gone, not just waiting for the right time to strike. I regret nothing, that thing was HUGE!


@melis I did the same thing, but my apartment was infested with BEES. I thought the buzzing sound in the walls was my dwindling sanity, but turns out there was a beehive that was getting huger and huger and conveniently located in the wall of my closet. HOW CAN YOU SLEEP WHEN BEES ARE BUZZING AROUND YOU?? When in doubt, bolt, and don't look back.


@cherrispryte Actually yes, this works! Not only because the geckos eat the roaches but SO DOES THE GECKO'S FOOD! One of the roach's natural enemies are CRICKETS (aka: GECKO FOOD!) So every time I let my gecko out I also make sure to let loose 1 or 2 feeder crickets. I rarely get roaches in my apartment but as soon as I see one I know there are many, so I let the gecko and the crickets do their work.

Also: for long-term use I sprinkle a mixture of baking soda and sugar (1 part sugar 3 parts baking soda) in roach-y places (the backs of closets, behind the toilet, under the sink, behind couches, behind the fridge and stove, etc). The roaches will eat it because they want the sugar but the baking soda makes their stomachs explode and they die!


Pantry moths are the same as grain moths, I think? I have been battling those little sons-a-btches. Looking forward to learning how to put a final nail in each one of their tiny coffins. Jolie, you're the best!


@kate.m We had them when I was a kid once. They drove my mom nuts! I think the final solution was ALL opened foodstuffs being stored in plastic/closed containers, for ever.


@kate.m Yup, and unopened stuff if it's only in thin plastic. The little fuckers can chew through a bag of rice. I had the worst trouble convincing my flatmates of this, even with wriggly horrible larval evidence. Upside: I have lots of pretty glass jars now.

Pretzel Wagon

"I also like to bust out ammonia on the regular to wipe down cabinetry, walls, the ventilation hood, my floors, young children with sticky fingers, etc"

I need more info on this step please!!

Jolie Kerr

@Pretzel Wagon Here are the basics but God, I could go on about ammonia solution for ages. Love that stuff. It's absolute aces on grease and dirt.


Hey ladies, this is off topic- I was going to wait for a bargain bin post but then it might be too late.

La mystere bras on sale for 20 bucks, 40F and 38E respectively:



And here's one for the itty bitty tittie committee:


I just had to share...

tiny dancer

I kept reading it as PANTY moths and at first I was horrified for the person with panty moths. And then I was terrified of getting the panty moths.


@tiny dancer: THIS. Me too. I mean, it's been a while for me so I'm a bit cobwebby, but at least I don't have MOTHS.


Speaking of deep cleaning and purging, Jolie, you would be so proud of me. I got inspired last week to do a closet purge. This morning, the Purple Heart picked up 11 bags of clothes and shoes today. ELEVEN. FULL. BAGS. I can actually see the floor of my closet now.


@Clare You know what that means ... SHOPPING~~~!


@redheadedandcrazy I am ashamed to admit that's EXACTLY what happened. "Oh, this dress from Forevs is only $23, and I just got rid of like five dresses, why not?" "These J.Crew wedges are 30 percent off with free shipping, and I just got rid of like 10 pairs of shoes, why not?"


OK re: paper towels. Does this mean I can't just liberally spray my ceramic tile floor with Fantastic, plunk down a wad of paper towels and skate my floor clean?

Also, just thank you. This is 100% what I needed to read today as I was trying to decide between activities that would make me put off cleaning. I do love that Cometed shiny sink.


I am going to go clean my kitchen RIGHT NOW instead of (a) going to the gym or (b) studying for my French midterm. It will be so fabulous.


@ellbeejay JOLIE KERR. My kitchen is so clean. Cleaner than when I moved in! But I am going to have to email you about a couple of things, maybe.


Can we have something like this for every room in my house?

Gin and Jewess

MICROFIBER CLEANING CLOTHS. Changed my life. I am a professional cleaning lady and I bring my own to every job. They make different textures for different purposes, and just follow the washing directions and they will last forever. They also make mops with different microfiber pads, some for dusting, some for scrubbing, etc. Makes using traditional sponge mops seem like trying to clean your floor with an old sneaker. An old wet sneaker.


Jolie, you are my absolute favourite on The Hairpin, which is High Praise Indeed. Cannot wait to hear part 2 about pantry moths!


This post ended up making me do a deep-clean of my cupboard doors. I...feel better about things now. Almost as good as therapy. Of course now I want to paint my cupboards.


I actually didn't find this article very helpful. Is everyone going to hate me now? Please don't hate me. But I don't think it delivered. She basically just said, buy alcohol (Hairpin staple line) do the dishes, wipe, take out the garbage. Many people don't know how to clean specific types of messes and this is where she should have put in more detail. Ex. cleaning the sink is not always as simple as wiping it down. You might need that stainless steel scrubber powder. Also, some types of mildew and mold are resistant to many cleaning products, so you have to buy something specific. Another thing, if you are literally cleaning your wooden cabinets, you can't just spray a cleaner (or god forbid Soft Scrub) on wood. You'll have a stinky mess/stain (even with green cleaners). Wood is different and demands its own regiment. Just some suggestions...


I too demand more specific free advice.

Jolie Kerr

@nomorecheese The problem here, of course, is that you're like a Master's Level cleaner and this column is meant to be Cleaning Kindergarten.

There was no possible way to address specific types of messes or products for every possible kitchen variation (not everyone has a stainless steel sink, for example!) - the column would have been 100,000 words long. Specific questions should be sent my way for Q&A responses. Also I say in there that I use ammonia solution for my wooden cabinets... maybe you just scanned the headers or something?

@melis: You've been KILLING IT in this thread. Bleach you, my child.


This is what I am doing tomorrow with my day off! And also reading and commenting on posts not hours and hours after the fact.

The Widow Muspratt

How about listening to podcasts instead of music? I measure all my cleaning/yardwork/home improvement projects by how many episodes of "Stuff You Missed in History Class" it takes me to complete them.

Ben's Shorts

Step 4: get your girlfriend to stop watching the game and pitch in; am I right guys?!


If you have roaches, just wash & dry all your sinks each night, and then sprinkle them with boric acid powder (available at any hardware store). It will dehydrate them as they go for their water sources. They'll go nuts -- nuts!!! -- for a few days, and then disappear altogether.

Also, don't have any standing water for them to drink from. Dirty dishes are roach watering holessss. Ew forever.


Hm, I always thought this is what everyone did every time they clean their kitchen, every Saturday morning. You mean I don't have to do this weekly??

JanitorialWeb Janitorial Supplies

This article is very good, I use normally baking soda for clean the bathroom or other place, brush and other janitorial supplies. I write an article about baking soda, you can read in the nex link. http://janitorialweb.com/bakingsoda.html


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I have more of a question my down stairs pantry which has No Food the floor has been covered with dead fruit flys, I cleaned 2 dust pans full off the floor 4 days ago and I have just as many anyone have an idea? I could understand live ones but dead 2 dust pans full?
Prob can't spell lol

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